Embrace the Pace

2020 has, if nothing else, provided many lessons. One of those has to do with pace. Sometimes life’s pace feels extreme; other times it crawls. The lessons are many, but here’s one on my radar: Whatever the pace, embrace it.

That’s not a call to laziness or workaholism. It’s more a call to submission. If God says run, run; when he says rest, rest. Whatever pace he’s setting, embrace it.

Embracing a pace requires awareness and commitment. The pace of a 5k is much different than a marathon. Why? For starters, there’s a difference of 23.1 miles. That pretty much sums it up. That awareness determines the mindset needed. Training is built on it. Racing is built on training. The entire process requires embracing.

Solomon seemed to understand this. Check out these verses from his books:

  • “My love calls to me: Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one. For now the winter is past; the rain has ended and gone away. The blossoms appear in the countryside. The time of singing has come, and the turtledove’s cooing is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs; the blossoming vines give off their fragrance. Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one.”‭‭ Song of Songs‬ ‭2:10-13‬ ‭CSB‬‬
  • “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭CSB‬‬

There is a pace of hibernation which shifts to wondering.

There is a pace for listening and reflecting which shifts to singing and celebrating.

Whatever pace God is leading you at today, you can trust that it’s correct. Embrace it.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/David Brooke Martin

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 3)

I checked into an Airbnb in Dade City Monday. Across the road is this scene, a huge pasture with a lake.

Each morning I’ve driven downtown to get in my run. Tuesday morning when I returned, the pasture cows were having breakfast.

A couple of them paused to check me out. This one, I’ll call him Fred, was the most curious. He seemed a little bothered like, “Hey, human! What’s your problem? Can’t we eat without you people always staring at us?”

And that’s what Fred and I did-stared. It became a contest. Human won.

In my exercise work under the “Mine” column, I’ve come to a conclusion. I can be a lot like Fred. Chewing, wandering, mooing, doing whatever I want when someone comes along, mostly God, and interrupts. Gets my attention. Even calls me out. “How’s your responsibilities going?”

I’ve concluded that there is one thing that must top the list of mine-above my character, my integrity, my heart and soul. If I keep this one thing, it seems everything else on the list will fall into place. The top item is a surrendered will.

Freds can be stubborn, territorial, even proud. But eventually, they will surrender. And usually that comes in a moment of prayer. Consider these words from Paul David Tripp’s Awe:

The Lord’s prayer is a model for us. From “Our Father” to “your will be done,” the opening of this prayer presents a way of thinking, living, and approaching God inspired by awe of him. Only awe of him can define in you and me a true sense of what we actually need. So many of our prayers are self-centered grocery lists of personal cravings that have no bigger agenda than to make our lives a little more comfortable. They tend to treat God more as a personal shopper than a holy and wise Father-King. Such prayers forget God’s glory and long for a greater experience of the glories of the created world. They lack fear, reverence, wonder, and worship. They’re more like pulling up the divine shopping site than bowing our knees in adoration and worship. They are motivated more by awe of ourselves and our pleasures than by a heart-rattling, satisfaction-producing awe of the Redeemer to whom we are praying.

Christ’s model prayer follows the right order and stands as a model for our personal prayer. It’s only when my heart is captured by the awe of God that I will view my identity rightly. And it’s only when I view my identity rightly that I will have a proper sense of need and willingness to abandon my plan for the greater and more glorious plan of God.

So I guess I need to thank Fred. And do what’s mine, and only mine. Stay surrendered.

You Have Cookies?

Dialogue at the end of my drive-through order at Wendy’s earlier today:

Wendy’s: Would you like any sauce?

Me: No, thank you.

Wendy’s: Would you like to add a cookie to your order for only $.99?

Me: You have cookies? 

Wendy’s: Yes, we do.

Me: Wow! I didn’t know that. Yeah, I’ll have a cookie (with a no-brainer tone).

Later I enjoyed my Wendy’s double chocolate chip cookie.

Why do you need to know this?

  • Future orders
  • The power of offering
  • The blessing of knowledge
  • Runners eat cookies, too. Well, this one does.
  • Imagine that cookie with your Frosty!

Post credit: G2

5 Ways to Combat Forced Fear

Yesterday I saw the CBS commercial featuring actors from their shows sending this message: “We’re in this together.” Yes, community is important, always but certainly now.

If you think about that message for a moment, you can be more descriptive by replacing “this” with a specific noun. Like…

  • …We’re in economic uncertainty together
  • …We’re in confusion together
  • …We’re in isolation together
  • …We’re in media overload together
  • …We’re in the drive through together
  • …We’re in the grocery line together
  • …We’re in fear fatigue together

I’ll stop there to chew on that one. This “this” is one of the major things we are in together. 

Some of us by nature, personality, or any number of reasons tend to live more fearfully. But this is different. This feels like we’re all in fear together whether we want to be or not. Feels forced, on many levels.

We all have natural tendencies in responding to fear. Generally, we are defined as fighters or flighters. I tend to be the former, which explains why I tend to believe much of the fear we are in together is forced.

Regardless of its origination or our response tendency to it, fear does not get an automatic win. It can be overcome when we choose to combat it. You probably are already trying to combat it, subconsciously or thoughtfully. In case you’d like more help, because we’re in this together, here are five ways I’m combating forced fear.

  1. Created a Playlist…just this morning I decided it was time to create a COVID-19 playlist. My list includes songs that address fear directly, bring God into the picture, and focus on the hope of eternity. Pretty sure I’ll be playing it daily.
  2. Exercising Early…many years ago I had to overcome not being a morning person in order to pursue better running training. I’m not in training mode right now. But I’ve put my mind in combat fear mode, meaning setting the alarm on most mornings to get up and exercise first thing. My guess is, if you don’t already do this, when you give it a try you’ll like it.
  3. Increasing Peace Intake…this “this” is to combat that media overload we’re in together. Here’s a challenge to consider: however much time you spend watching, reading, scrolling, engaging in media that produces fear in you, spend at least that same amount of time or more taking in peace. Whatever produces peace in your heart, mind, and spirit needs equal time. Personally I’m barely looking at Twitter, looking at Facebook less, and pretty much looking at headlines only.
  4. Making Others First…this one can be very simple. Something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you in the grocery line, greeting the cashier by name, thanking them for the extra work they are doing, being empathetic with those you’re together with in the grocery aisles (practiced these Wednesday). For something more impactful, ask God to bring to mind someone to bless and how to do it (doing this today).
  5. Reading>Meditating…in particular, biblical characters that endured forced fear. Examples: Joseph, Esther, Ruth, Daniel, Mary and Joseph, and certainly Jesus. Many of them were forced to face the fear of death. Read their stories. Meditate on how they combated fear. I’m taking a look at Genesis all this weekend.

How are you dealing with forced fear? Got something else to share? Please do. We’re in forced fear together.

52: A Better & Deeper Birthday

Got a call this morning asking if I felt wiser. Took me a moment, but I figured out that was their way of saying, “I know you had a birthday yesterday.”

I don’t know about wiser, but I can say yesterday (#52) was an illustration that I am certainly better at acknowledging my birthday as I age.

Last decade my “go to” celebration was traveling to run a race: ’11, Snickers Marathon; ’13, Tuscaloosa Half; ’17, Little Rock 10k; ’18, Mississippi 50k; ’19, Rhode Island Marathon. No race or traveling this year. Just let it flowed.

Instead of running elsewhere, I enjoyed a midday run sporting my birthday gift to myself: 


Roll Tide!

Other treats of the day involved free food: a chocolate cupcake that appeared on my desk, then a Firehouse sub and a Chick-fil-a shake courtesy of their mobile apps (you should get them if you don’t have them).

But the best gift given to me was from an unexpected source. Through sign language in a movie, God gave me clarity about a project that has been shelved for a couple of years. And it came out of nowhere. I wasn’t looking for it. But it was quite clear and brought peace. Makes sense that God gave me the best gift of the day.

If this is an indicator of what’s in store on birthdays the rest of this decade, I’m in. Better and Deeper! Let’s Go!

The Stairmaster & Integrated Character

I’m halfway through Henry Cloud’s Integrity. It’s been too long since I read it, and I want to get it read before yearend.

Today I read this quote from chapter nine, “Finishing Well”:

The ability to make a move, make the call, face rejection or loss, is a character issue, and if it is missing, results do not happen. Fear of failure, rejection, disapproval, anxiety, unknown outcomes, loss of security, and other fears keep people from achieving the results that they could, if they were not afraid.

People of integrated character do not think of failure that way. They think that if things do not go well, that is another reality that they will deal with and overcome. In a sense, the integrated character never sees failure as an option. These people just see problems to be solved, and they will meet the challenge when it occurs, so “go for it.”

Here’s a simple illustration of this. I’m not running much right now while a left-foot injury heals. So my Planet Fitness craze is the Stairmaster. In response to a couple of challenges and opportunities next year, I’ve decided to push for some new personal records on the Stairmaster. The main record I’m after is time. Until last week, the longest workout I’d done was 35 minutes. Respectable. My new goal is an hour.

I could do it today if I had to. But I’d have to do it at a slower level/pace than I’d like. So my strategy is to add minutes slowly but maintaining high levels. So last Friday night I found a blog post for a 40-minute workout; it was beyond my skill set, so I modified it and went to the gym the next morning with my 36-minute routine ready to “go for it.”

I about died. This is the plan I didn’t succeed:

  • Two minutes starting at level 8 increasing one level every two minutes up to level 13 (12 minutes total). Complete three times.

After the first twelve minutes, I had a pretty clear idea I had overestimated myself. Two more rounds wasn’t going to happen unless I wanted to be the subject of a viral video of what it looks like to be eaten by a Stairmaster. In the end, I ran out of gas at 30 minutes.

I was pretty sure the way to solve my problem was to address my heart rate. I’ve never really concerned myself with it, so I needed to learn about it. According to active.com, it is recommended that you exercise within 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from aerobic exercise. The MHR (roughly calculated as 220 minus your age) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

Good to know. Why? All along, I’ve been pushing my heart rate way over the recommendation. Using this formula, my heart rate should be between 90-145. On Saturday, I mostly stayed between 155-170. No wonder I ran out of gas.

With a better grip on reality, I went back and boarded the machine yesterday with one goal in mind: monitor my heart rate well in order to get to 36 minutes. Here’s what I ended up achieving:

  • Level 7-2 minutes. Level 8-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes. Level 10-8 minutes. Level 11-6 minutes. Level 10-4 minutes. Level 9-6 minutes.

I even had a little left in the tank. As my friend told me, I had some experiential learning. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Knowledge about heart rate on this machine is power for meeting my goal.
  2. Getting there alive is certainly better than not at all.
  3. There is a way to accomplish my goal. Adjust and “go for it.”
  4. The Stairmaster can also integrate character.

Review & Question

Last Tuesday afternoon I had time to spare. Nap was taken. Running a race the next morning. Wildcard Baseball not on yet. What to do in small town PA? I decided to visit about the only place I hadn’t yet checked out that seemed interesting. I went to the library.

It was 4pm; they closed in three hours. My only plan was to look for something that caught my attention and see how long it lasted. Here’s what I found:

I’m telling you this for two reasons: 1) Book review and 2) Personal question

Book Review

I had no idea when I registered for this half marathon that I would end up driving through Amish country. Having spent part of the morning in that area roughly 20 minutes away, it made complete sense that a portion of the religious section of the library revolved around the Amish lifestyle and beliefs. Remembering this national headline and reading the subtitle of this book, caught was my attention.

In about the right length of a movie-two hours-I knew the story of this family and this event in much more detail. I had learned. I had cried. I had grown. If that’s not a ringing endorsement for a book, then what is?

Question

I’m keeping track of the books I’ve read this year. Yes, I added this title to the list. But I had to answer a question that might sound silly, but it was a real question in my mind. And it wasn’t the first time I’ve wrestled with it. Could I truthfully say I’d read that book? Yes, I read it for two hours. Yes, I knew the story. Yes, I knew the ending. I even looked up whether the author is still alive due to what she shared about her health condition. I knew a lot about this book and its author. But, I didn’t read every word of the book. I read as much as I could in two hours.

So here’s my question to you. If you’re a reader (definition: you read a couple of books a year), how much of a book must you read in order for it to count? 51%? 75%? 100%?

All my life, I’ve been the 100%er. Not no more.

For fun, let’s see your answer. You can comment on this post. Or return to the social media link you followed and post your answer. No shame. Be honest.

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner’s Guide

My last post shared two runners’s story, observed from a distance. They ran a half marathon together on Wednesday; I doubt it was their first nor their last. The uniqueness of one being blind and the other a guide got me thinking. So that post focused on the blind runner, lessons to learn from running blind. So what lessons could we learn from the running guide?

At some time in life, we are a guide. It may be as a parent, an employer, a teacher, a facilitator, a trainer-so many opportunities for us to tether up and lead someone down a path they have never traveled or simply can’t see to navigate on their own. In those moments, we have much to keep in mind, to consider how best to fulfill our role. From the example of guiding a blind runner, here are some things to consider.

  • Relax

If you want your runner to be comfortable and enjoy their experience, you have to lead that part of their journey also. Bringing skepticism or doubt or tension to the start line will make for a long race. So whatever you’ve got to do to step up to the start line relaxed (train a lot, know the course, anticipate questions and concerns, curb your emotions), do it!

  • Forward movement

Being relaxed will help avoid paralysis at the start line. Committing to forward progress will keep you moving long after the gun has sounded. Somewhere along the 13.1 miles, your runner may question if they can finish. Dealing with the possible-only worrying about the next step-will maintain focus on the present and let the future take care of itself.

  • Loose Grip

The tether between Brandon and Adam was less than an arm’s length, long enough to allow space but short enough to control direction and create rhythm. This subtle avenue toward confidence and freedom may be the most important path to trust. Yes, you are needed. No, you are not completely in charge. You are a guide, not a dictator.

  • Follow their Lead

The best leaders know how to follow. On race day, you have to pay attention to how they are feeling, thinking, and responding in that moment. How they were in training or at dinner the night before is irrelevant. How they show up to the start line is what you have to follow. Pay attention and follow their lead. This requires balance; but if you’re relaxed, thinking forward, and holding a loose grip, following will be much easier.

  • Respect their Pace

Get this straight: this is not your race; it’s theirs. If they aren’t thinking anything about setting a personal record or finishing in the top three, neither should you. The pace is up to them. You came to help them accomplish their goals, not yours. Whatever their pace is, respect it.

  • Stay in Your Lane

Drifting in and out of your lane will eventually result in a fall, which could have various consequences. Stay in your running lane. Stay in your emotional lane. Stay in your guiding lane. Commit to knowing your lane and staying in it. Correct any drifting step by step.

Our guiding opportunities can be very rewarding and fulfilling. Let’s embrace them in order to celebrate our tethered partner’s race.

6 Lessons from the Blind Runner


The pic above is a screenshot of the results from the race I ran in PA yesterday. If you know me at all, you know I can analyze the heck out of a list like this. Don’t get me started. Actually, it’s too late anyway…did that hours ago.

Before you focus on my name and placement, let your mind look over the rest of the results. One detail that glares at you is that finishers 2&3 crossed the finish line at the same time. Not unusual in the running world, particularly in smaller, local races. Usually that means family members or running friends ran together, literally-they stayed together, and probably chatted, the entire course length. Not my thing, but it is a lot of people’s.

But without being there yesterday, you wouldn’t know there is more to Adam and Brandon’s story than they ran a race together. And I can’t say I know a whole lot more than that since I didn’t talk to them. But I did watch them. I simply had to. Why? Because one of them wasn’t going to start, let alone finish, without the other one. Brandon was blind, and Adam was his guide.

In a much bigger race I once saw such a team at the start line, but I never saw them on the course after we started. This second opportunity was different. Because of the layout of the course, we passed each other twice. In all, I had four chances to watch them do their thing. And do it they did.

So instead of just analyzing these results yesterday, I thought about what I could learn from these two men. Apparently, quite a bit. Pause and think about them separately. What would it take for you, 17 years old and blind, to attempt to run a half marathon? And if you can see, what would it take for you to guide a blind runner any distance, let alone 13.1 miles? Again, I didn’t talk to them, so I’m guessing what the answers are to these questions.

For the rest of this post, here are the lessons I take away from putting myself in Brandon’s shoes-which seems incredibly assuming.

  • Trust

This has to be the most important thing they both have in their work together. Adam doesn’t have a chance if Brandon doesn’t put his trust in him.

  • Courage

Maybe Brandon’s not seen his entire life and only knows what he knows, but how else can you define his willingness to step up to the start line without declaring courage. I met another runner running his first half yesterday, and he needed some courage. But he could see and was old enough to be Brandon’s dad. Courage was on full display.

  • Joy

Brandon’s face before, during, and after the race exuded joy. Fear, not present. Doubt, defeated. He even ran a recovery mile or so afterwards with that same joyful countenance.

  • Fulfillment

Brandon knew he belonged with everyone else. He experienced the same fulfillment as all finishers do when they cross that line. He did not have to feel or think less than.

  • Exemplify

If I were to ask Brandon what he hopes others learn from seeing him run, I’d put money on his answer being something like, “I hope they see what’s possible. I hope they learn to trust, have courage, pursue joy, and know fulfillment.” (Ok…those are my words, but you get the point.)

  • Normalcy

We are all normal as God created us. Embrace it. Be the normal God made you to be.

To be honest, in life we’re all blind runners. Wouldn’t you agree? So let’s thank God for all the Brandons who show up in our lives to remind us.

What Are You Waiting For?

Two posts ago, I shared a prayer exercise. Here are a couple of stories from my exercise.

One of my five desires that I listed in my journal was “detection of God’s movement.” Since yesterday, my desire has been granted twice.

  1. Monday morning I woke up and sent this message to a friend: “Not sure why, but you dominated my dreams this morning. I spent much time in prayer for you. God loves you.” Last night they responded, “Thanks, friend!!! Means so much and I was up at 4:30am also after bad dreams. Thank you.”
  2. After my race Monday in WV, I drove to PA to run a race Wednesday morning. On my drive, I decided to search for a massage therapist in hopes to schedule an appointment Tuesday. Just so happens, a chiropractor office was across the street from my hotel. I walked over, and they gave me a referral to a local therapist. Long story short, she only had one hour available today. Not only did she give my muscles what they needed, we also talked the entire hour about church, prayer, God, coaching, and life direction. We both agreed…that hour was an answer to our prayers.

If you haven’t tried the exercise yet, what are you waiting for?